Horning In


Evan Parker
Incus : 1978

EP, soprano sax.

In the pantheon of saxophone colossi, there is a special place reserved for Evan Parker. Taking late Coltrane as his jumping off point, Parker has expanded the language of the saxophone as much as anyone over the past three decades. A central figure in the European Free Improv scene alonside Derek Bailey, Peter Brotzmann, John Stevens, Alexander von Schlippenbach and many others, Parker has been a significant force for creative music in an astonishing array of settings.

Monoceros presents Parker in cyclical solo soprano mode, creating his own musical vocabulary from what initially sounds like an unbroken series of squeaks, wheezes, chirps and overtones. He fearlessly charts his own sonic course, navigating his own hard-won system of sonic logic and beauty in both of these concise pieces. There are flights of scorched-but-aching lyricism and insistent themes, but if you’re new to his work you’ll probably need to give the tracks a few spins to align yourself with their coordinates. It’s deep listening music — much of it flows by so fast it can create a bewildering, unexpected sort of stasis.

For those in NYC, Parker’s ongoing two-week residency at The Stone is an essential event. It’s similar to the highly recommended 50th Birthday Concert from 1994, serving as something of a career summation and a jumping off point for new directions. However, this line-up of collaborations is far more ambitious and wide-ranging: Milford Graves, John Zorn, George Lewis, Matthew Shipp, Sylvie Courvoisier,Tim Berne, Ikue Mori, Chris Corsano, Joe McPhee, William Parker, Fred Frith, and many others.

Both halves of Destination: Out were lucky enough to catch Parker’s show with drummer extraordinaire Susie Ibarra last week (and unlucky enough to be shut out of the Zorn set the previous night). Parker played tenor sax, and while his tone was instantly recognizable, it was far less astringent than the tracks on Monoceros. The rapport between the two was immediate and remarkable, and each of six pieces offered its own distinct structure and musical textures. Ibarra used the whole kit — including the air above it — and occasionally played some insistent rhythms, placing Parker’s playing in a different context than anything we’ve previously heard. Rather that hit hard with some circular breathing, Parker instead spent much of the evening exploring melodic cells and threading his way in and around Ibarra’s brush-, stick-, and mallet-work. There’s a word for what it’s like to witness musicians playing at this level: privileged. The generosity on display at The Stone is awe-inspiring.

These shows are being recorded by WKCR and (as we understand it) the tapes will be handed over to Parker. We sincerely hope he’ll be releasing a box set of this remarkable stand in the near future.

Have you been able to make any of the Parker residency in NYC? What’re your favorite Parker albums and/or performances?

Discussion15 Comments Category Evan Parker Tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Responses to Horning In

  1. Thanks for posting. I’m on the wrong side of the continent to see Parker in NYC, but I hope some of these concerts get a release.

    My favourite Parker? Evan Parker At The Finger Palace, Monoceros, Memory/Vision and The Moment’s Energy.

  2. I really wish I could be in NYC for this. It would be awesome to hear Parker with Matthew Shipp or Slyvie Courvoisier. I was lucky enough to hear him play in a duet with Ned Rothenberg recently. Very good stuff. Anyway, thanks for the tracks.

  3. Evan Parker Favs = At the Vortex (with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton), Pakistani Pomade (Schlippenbach trio), and Real Time One with Andrea Centazzo and Alvin Parker.

    Thanks as usual, Evan Parker is a true living legend.

  4. er, i generally hate it when people correct themselves on things like this but i meant of course Alvin Curran.

  5. I enjoy Parker’s longer excursions more. I get completely lost in his aesthetic the longer he plays. These shorter pieces are gorgeous as well, however.

  6. I haven’t been able to hear that much of the Parker residency at the Stone. I really enjoyed the duo set with Sylvie Courvoisier – a lot of space and textural variety. The live Parker shows have inspired me to start checking out his recorded work in more detail. Thanks for posting these tracks!

  7. Thanks so much for doing another post on Evan Parker, the greatest living saxophonist. He came to St. Petersburg, FL in April 2001 as part of the EMIT series, just one hour’s drive from my house. I was salivating, waiting for the day. And then when the evening came, my wonderful three-month-old son decided to cry all night, and I did my duties as a husband and father and stayed home to help, missing my only chance to see Parker live. I even emailed him a few years ago to see if he was ever going to come back to the U.S., and if so, how would I know, and he said future U.S. trips were unlikely due to expensive Visas, financial issues, etc. But now here he is in NYC! You guys are the luckiest punters on the planet. Enjoy it. I envy you more than you’ll ever know!


  8. Thanks for posting this music by Evan Parker. I can’t wait to hear the duo stuff with Susie Ibarra. My last experience of Mr. Parker was during the Time Flies festival here in Vancouver when he performed some lovely sets with trumpeter Peter Evans, clarinetist Francois Houle, and other artists. Seeing him a few years ago with Alex S. and Paul L. was also fantastic.
    Please post more of the solo soprano stuff.

  9. Hard to choose among all the Parkers, but Most Materiall with Eddie Prevost is a favorite of mine, as well as After Appleby (Crispell/Guy/Lytton) and DrawnInward (electronic ensemble) and lots of others. Ooh, and Music from Saxophone and Trombone with George Lewis. Really wishing I was in NYC right now.

  10. The best of the recent series at the Stone was (for me) the George Lewis. Hearing the two of them together on their horns (Parker on soprano) was truly amazing, I was floored by the extent to which they were playing *together* — as opposed to just at the same time — and then when Lewis moved to electronics it took on an altogether different yet equally enjoyable character. The Milford Graves duo was fantastic, intense, but way too short (the room was over capacity and got cleared by the P.D.), so I’d say my second favorite of the ones I saw was the Sylvie Courvoisier. The other one I was able to attend was the first Shipp/Wm.Parker set, which was one I was most looking forward to but for some reason least enjoyed (tho it was still great!). Perhaps partly because I (apparently) prefer his soprano work.

  11. Mr. Parker is first rate.My favorite recordings are the one’s with Schlippenbach .Their take on free jazz gets to me. he’s such a versatile and powerful player.

  12. There was originally a duet concert between Parker and Dave Holland scheduled that got cancelled. Bummer! That was the one I was most excited for, by far.

  13. The scuttlebutt on that cancellation is that Holland’s manager thought the gig was too puny and wasn’t worth Dave’s time. For shame.

  14. I was lucky enough to catch about six of the Parker shows. A superb, sometimes transformative experience, and a musical milestone. My favorite (who can say “best”?) set was the Parker/Corsano/Wooley set; all the intensity of the Graves set (Corsano was bringing it!), but with the added dimension of Wooley on trumpet; maybe the best I’ve heard him play. At one point, they were quoting Don Cherry!

    The set with George Lewis was fine, especially when Lewis actually played trombone rather than mess around with his laptop, which added nothing to the music and proved a distraction.

    The set with Tim Berne and Earl Howard was a mixed bag. Berne and Parker proved a potent matchup, but Howard wasted 3/4 of the set on some synthesizer concoction that one could tell that neither Parker nor Berne really connected with. When Howard picked up his sax for one number and joined Berne and Parker, it was a fantastic moment.

    Parker’s own favorite matchup was with Ikue Mori, the electronica master. Unlike Howard and Lewis, she knows how to use electronics for truly musical effects.

    But for me, the best matchup was Parker solo. One needed nothing more.

  15. Mid- to late-80’s. Chicago JazzFest aftershow at Link’s Hall on Clark Street, a stone’s throw from Wrigley Field. Parker and Lacy and, just beyond them, the el cars running by the second floor windows every few minutes. Mesmerizing.

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